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Gujarat govt 'contradicts' MHA memo while freeing Bilkis Bano gangrape convicts

By Our Representative 

The All-India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah "must answer for the decision to free Bilkis Bano's gang rapists." In a statement, AIPWA has wondered, "What was the basis of the Gujarat Government’s decision to free those men on August 15, 2022, to celebrate what the PM Modi calls India’s Amrit Kaal? Was remission and freedom a reward for rape and murder of Muslims?"
The statement comes amidst an Ahmedabad-based legal rights non-pofit, which took up the cause of Bilkis Bano and fought her case right up to the Supreme Court, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), suggesting that the Gujarat government move to allow remission to the convicts contradicts the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Guidelines for Granting Special Remission to Prisoners on August 15, 2022 (75th anniversary of Independence), January 26, 2023, and again on August 15, 2023.
Citing the MHA notification No 17013/37/2021-PR, dated June 10, 2022, an email alert to Counterview by senior CSJ activist Aditya Gujarathi said, "I would like to draw your attention to Paragraph 5(vi) on page 4 of the attached document, which states that prisoners convicted of rape shall not be considered for special remission. Furthermore, 5(ii) also states that prisoners convicted with sentence of life imprisonment also shall not be considered."
AIPWA statment, signed by Rati Rao, Meena Tiwari and Kavita Krishnan, president, general secretary and secretary respectively, asked, were the rapists freed because "one of the women who fought for justice for Muslims killed or raped in the 2002 pogrom, Teesta Setalvad, is now in prison because she helped Zakia Jafri petition Supreme Court hoping to hold the government and police machinery of the day responsible for acts of omission and commission that allowed the pogrom to take place?"
On the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, the 11 men sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering seven Muslims and gang-raping a pregnant Bilkis Bano walked free because the Gujarat Government chose to remit their sentences. "They had committed their crime during the Gujarat 2002 anti Muslim pogrom, which happened when PM Modi was Gujarat CM", the statement said.
They had committed the crime during Gujarat 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, which happened when Modi was Gujarat CM
It said, "The conviction of communal killers and rapists is after all an aberration in India, not the rule. Does the remission intend to restore the rule of impunity for communal killers and rapists?", adding, "Today it has become commonplace for Hindu-supremacists to openly give calls for genocide and rape of Muslims -- without any consequences. The decision to free Bilkis Bano’s rapists emboldens such men and their followers to act on their threats."
The statement further said, "In India, the godi media anchors (propagandists for the Modi regime and the BJP) like to accuse feminist activists and women’s movement organisations of being 'soft on rapists' because we oppose death penalty for rape. In this case, Bilkis herself had said that she would not demand the death penalty, since she opposed it on principle. Now that the gang rapists are being set free after a mere few years of prison, and will not even serve their life sentence, what do those anchors have to say?"
It asked, "Will they amplify Bilkis’ demand for justice? Will the PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah care to comment on this decision? Are we really to believe that this decision was taken without the blessing of these two topmost leaders of the BJP?", even as terming #India@75 "a day of shame for India’s women, because the ruling BJP chose to make it a day to free Bilkis’ rapists."

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